Building Resilience – Overcoming Our Thinking Traps
In a previous article, we discussed some of the thinking traps we can fall into when we’re under pressure or stress. These included internalising or personalising conflicts (‘me, me, me’), externalising or blaming the world (‘life’s not fair’), thinking that something is the end of the world (‘Armageddon’) or that whatever you try nothing will change (‘all or nothing’). Perhaps you recognised some of these behaviours or thoughts in yourself?
In this article, we will look at some of the ways you can overcome these thinking traps and look to build resilience so that you feel the impact less and bounce back quicker – which is essentially what resilience is all about.
Me, me, me. If you tend to think “this is all my fault” or “I must have done something wrong”, then you need to seek a different perspective. The best thing to do in this situation is talk to someone who knows you but isn’t directly involved and ask them for an objective opinion. Hopefully they will help you see the facts of the circumstances and that, possibly, it isn’t all your fault or maybe not your fault at all. People in this thinking trap find it difficult to accept they might not be to blame – in case they are! But often there are other factors and considerations, and you need a different perspective to see them.
Life’s not fair. Perhaps you tend to feel a sense of helplessness, that the world is against you and bad things were bound to happen. This type of externalising can be overcome by looking at the evidence. Ask yourself some questions like “when has this happened before?”, “what specifically has led you this conclusion?”, “in what ways could this not be true?” Start by building your case in favour of your belief – that this does happen all the time, and the world is against you – what evidence do you have? Then look at evidence against this belief – in what ways could this not be true? What successes have you had in the past, what else has influenced these circumstances?
Armageddon. Many people fall into this trap of thinking the smallest setback is going to lead to complete and utter disaster. They will lose their job, the world will end. To overcome this, take it to the extreme and think what the worst that could happen really is. You might lose your job, what else, what would happen then – lose the house, the car, the cat will move out, your partner will leave you? Maybe. What about thinking about the best that could happen? You could take a holiday, find a new job, or change careers to something you love? Now think about what is most likely to happen
– very few setbacks lead to job loss or anything quite so bad. Rationalise for a second, gain some perspective, what is really likely to happen? It’s probably not that bad.
All or nothing. Having a fixed mindset means you accept that things can’t change, you can’t change, and nor can other people. People with a fixed mindset don’t like challenges in case they fail and don’t believe they can improve by trying anyway. To encourage moving to a growth mindset, try changing the way you think from “I can’t” or “I never will” to “I’m not great at it, yet, but with practice I could get better”. Then focus on making small, incremental changes which move you towards improvement. Taking huge bold steps could well lead to failure (which is no bad thing by the way!), but taking regular baby steps to improvement may feel more comfortable.
If you recognise any of these thinking traps in yourself, then try some of these tactics. With the right mindset and a little time and practice, you can change the way you perceive setbacks and start to build your resilience.